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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

NEO-CLASSICISM                               273

completely romantic than neo-romantic, for he finds his themes
for the most part in the age of chivalry and keeps its romantic
trappings and sentiment; indeed, in his colouring and metrical
dexterity he is both a Tennysonian and a Pre-Raphaelite. Instead of
the congenital morbidity of the neo-romantics he has the morbid
sensationalism of the occultists; where he touches theneo-classicists
is in his elaboration of symbol. Between 1902 and 1916 he wrote
a cycle of plays which he loops together as Der Gral\ for these he
devised a strange dramatic metre by adapting the Nibelungen
strophe. In their period these plays surprise by their ascetic note;
if Stucken were a greater poet one might call him a spiritualized
Tennyson; from Tennyson certainly he takes over the pretence of
heroic purity. The prelude to the cycle, though it did not appear
till 1913, is Merlins Geburt. The first in date was Gawan (1902), the
central idea of which is that the saintly hero is tempted, as Job
was, by the devil. The dramatic problem is loosely grasped: the
play is a confused blend of the medieval pacts with the devil, in
which the sinner is saved by the direct mediation of the Virgin,
and the modern Pflichtdramai but the Virgin herself acts by ar-
rangement with Death or the Devil as a decoy, not, however, as
in Wilhelm von Scholz's Das Ker^wmder as love that yields, but
because she knows Gawan cannot succumb to the call of the flesh;
that is, logically she saves, not a repentant sinner, but one who
cannot sin; and, though Gawan first shrinks from death and then
faces it, it is 'purity' and not the idea of duty which is put forward
as the theme of the play. In the longrdrawn-out temptation scene,
heightened by fleshly tints and fainting rhythms (Marie, bending
over Gawan as he lies in bed, clings to his lips with a vampire's
kiss and meshes him in the net of her golden hair) the dualistic
argument between chastity and sin rolls to and fro. Stucken's
source was Jessie Weston's version of the Middle English poem
The Green Kxight. The Grail plays culminate in luamylot (1909), in
which the hero's love for Ginevra and Elaine symbolizes the dual-
ism of self-expression and renunciation. Asfrid (191$) handles the
Brunhild motif in an Icelandic setting; with Die Gesellschaft des
AbbeChafeattmtifvft come to Ninon de I'Enclos again. Stucken is
known internationally by his historical novel Die weissen Goffer
(1918), the first of a long series of such presentations of history
which rely for appeal as much on sensational sex episodes as on
the coloration of history. The novel shows Stucken's familiarity